A new U.S. government report has found that the tragic rise of children in foster care has continued for a fourth consecutive year — and the likely reason for the uptick is heartbreaking.
The Administration for Children and Families, a division of the Department of Health and Human Services, found that the number of kids in foster care in fiscal year 2016 was 437,500, up from 427,400 the previous year.
Meanwhile, adoptions from foster care increased from 54,000 to 57,000 during the same timeframe.
So, the key question is “why?” The report found that the biggest increase when it came to the reasons why kids were removed from the home was in the drug abuse category. Overall, 92,000 kids were removed from their home due to drug use by at least one parent in fiscal year 2016; this proportion increased from 32 percent to 34 percent between 2015 and 2016.
Steven Wagner, the acting assistant secretary for the ACF, expressed worries over this trend on Wednesday.
“The continued trend of parental substance abuse is very concerning, especially when it means children must enter foster care as a result,” Wagner said in a statement. “The seriousness of parental substance abuse, including the abuse of opioids, is an issue we at HHS will be addressing through prevention, treatment and recovery-support measures.”
The increase in children being removed from their family homes due to drug abuse comes as the nation grapples with a deadly opioid crisis. CNN recently published some statistics that put the problem in perspective. The outlet noted that there were 52,404 overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2015, with 63 percent of those involving opioids — that’s 91 opioid deaths per day.
When it comes to the adoption statistics, it should be noted that West Virginia, Georgia, Florida and Indiana — states struggling with the opioid crisis — had some of the largest one-year increases in terms of foster care children, NPR reported.